Gresham Hotel

An IRA murder squad entered the Gresham Hotel, 23 Upper O'Connell Street, Dublin at 9am. They held up the staff and some guests in the lobby and disconnected the telephone. The register was checked, and men went off to rooms allocated to them by Paddy Moran, the leader of this squad. The Hall Porter, Hugh Gallagher, was ordered to take the assassins to rooms 14 and 24. Here Wilde and McCormack were shot. Collins admitted later that McCormack was a mistake. Very little has been written or said about Wilde.

IRA men present in this group of 12 to 14 men according to the IRA, include, from a list by James Foley who became D Coy Capt when Moran was executed. They all came from the same IRA company, D Company, 2nd Battalion, of which Moran was the Captain, and they did not have a Squad man with them.:-

James Cahill, A.S.U.-W.S.503 .
D.Company was given the task of dealing with three Intelligence Officers who were residing in the Gresham Hotel, O'Connell Street. Three groups, consisting of three men each, were detailed to carry out the shooting. The remainder of our party were given the tasks of controlling members of the hotel staff and residents, covering the exits and preventing communication with the outside during the operation.
Paddy McGRATH, Company O.C. and I were the last to leave the meeting place. At the door, Paddy made a last appeal to Dick McKee to permit him to go on the operation. Dick refused to give permission, as one of Paddy's sons [Richard McGrath] was detailed for the Gresham, and he considered that sufficient for one family
Next morning I met the Company Commander, Paddy Moran, opposite the Gresham Hotel. We crossed the street together and entered the hotel at exactly nine o,clock. As we passed in, a newsboy called me by my name, asking if I required a paper. A second newsboy, seeing our men converge on the hotel, called to the first, " Theres a job on. Best clear out of this." We let them go, as we confident that they would not give the alarm. It was unpleasant for me to realise that an outsider knew of my connection with the operation, particularly as I was residing but a short distance from the hotel.
The three groups having assembled in the vestibule, each was dispatched by the Company O.C. to its respective destination, the group of which I was a member, moving off first. As we not conversant with the layout of the hotel, I ordered the head porter to guide us to McCormacks room.Whilst proceeding along the corridor, I observed a man of foreign appearance come to a bedroom door. I had a hunch that he might be one of the other two Intelligence Officers and would, if we continued on our way, take alarm, barricade himself in his room, and endeavour to call for assistance.I covered him with my gun, and asked him for his name. He promptly replied, "Alan Wilde, British Intelligence Officer, just back from Spain." At that moment, Mick Kilkelly, whose group had been detailed to deal with Wilde, came on the scene and fired, killing him instantly. The fact that Wilde was a new arrival and probably mistook us for a British raiding party would explain his readiness to give us information regarding himself.
As I moved away, I saw through a window a lorry of British Soldiers patrolling slowly along O'Connell Street. We found McCormacks bedroom door closed but unlocked. Nick Leonard and I entered the room and moved towards McCormack, who was partially sitting up in bed. He fired, the bullet passing between Nick and myself burying itself in a door jamb. We fired almost in the same instant, killing him outright. Nick took possession of McCormacks pistol, a .38 automatic. The possession of a gun in that period and his readiness to use it, completely refutes statements which have been made from time to time that he was not a British Agent, and that our Intelligence erred in including him amongst those to be executed.
The third Intelligence Officer had not slept in the Gresham the previous night, and so escaped the purge. As we emerged from the hotel there was no enemy in view, and the usual Sunday morning calm prevailed in O,Connell Street.

W.S. 499 by Patrick Kennedy D Co.2nd Batt. Dublin Brigade-
On the Saturday before Bloody Sunday I was instructed to report to 100 Seville Place that night where, I was told, I would receive specific instructions regarding an operation to be carried out the following morning. When I arrived at Seville Place that night, I discovered that a number of specially selected men from my Company were present and that Paddy Moran, my Company O.C.was in charge of them .
Sean Russell took charge for that night, and he gave us his instructions for the following morning. He explained that a big swoop was to be made simultaneously on all British agents residing in private houses throughout the city and that the operation was to be carried out at 9 0,clock sharp. He detailed Paddy Moran to take his party to the Gresham Hotel and eliminate three British Intelligence Officers who were stopping there. Lieutenant- Colonel Wilde and Captain McCormack were two of the British agents, I cannot remember the name of the third.. I arranged with Paddy Moran to meet him in North Earl Street. I met him as arranged and we proceeded to the Gresham Hotel. As we entered the hotel the other members of of our party, who were in the vicinity, came in after us. Our first job was to disconnect the telephone. As we knew the rooms in which the Intelligence agents were located, our party split up, as pre-arranged, and proceeded to the rooms allotted to them by Paddy Moran. There were people in the dining room and we took up position at the door and held them there. Two British agents were eliminated that morning, the third man escaped. He was a Catholic, I believe, and had gone out to early mass. The whole operation lasted less than ten minutes.-

Hugh Callaghan, the doorman, was told by the IRA group to take them to rooms 12 and 24. There is some doubt about whether they asked for 24 or 22, but they certianly ended up shooting the occupant of 22, who was MacCormack and 12, who was Wilde. Wilde was the first to die, dispatched with 3 shots, and MacCormack had 5 shots. Interestingly Hugh Callaghan was a witness at the trial of the spy Carl Lody in 1914 and who was later executed at the Tower of London on 6 November 1914, by a firing squad composed of members of the 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards. Lody had stayed in Dublin.

The IRA unit gained access to the rooms of MacCormack and Wilde by pretending to be British soldiers with important dispatches. When the men opened their doors they were shot and killed. Captain MacCormack was having breakfast in his bedroom in the Gresham Hotel and reading The Irish Field. Lt. Wilde was in another room in the hotel and he was also murdered. Patrick MacCormack was shot through the head, in the neck, in the wrist, and in the groin. The racing paper was still in his hand; the blankets were singed from the closeness of the firing.

MacCormack had come to Dublin to purchase horses and was probably shot by mistake. James Doyle, manager of the Gresham Hotel at the time, was one of many who thought that he was a pointless casualty. "At about nine o'clock on the morning of Bloody Sunday," Doyle said, "I was in bed in my room and awakened by noise. It was a muffled kind of thing like the beating of a carpet. The porter called up to my room afterwards and I asked him what the noise I had heard was. He said that Captain MacCormack , who was occupying a room quite close to me, had been shot dead. I got out of bed and entered Captain McCormack's room and I saw that he was then dead. The worker also told me that another man had been shot dead in a room on the next floor over Captain McCormack's. I went to this room also and saw the dead man. His surname was Wilde. I was totally ignorant of what took place or why these men were shot at the time. I questioned the porter and he told me that a number of armed men had entered the hotel and asked to be shown to the rooms occupied by these two men."The Gresham's manager said that McCormack had been staying in the hotel since September and had been buying race horses: "He had booked his passage back to Egypt for December on the Holt Line. Although he had been a veterinary surgeon with the British Army there would appear tohave been grave doubt as to his being associated with British intelligence. While he was here I never saw him receiving any guests. He slept well into the afternoon and only got up early when a race meeting was on. When I found him shot in his room, the Irish Field was lying beside him

The amount of blood in the rooms at the Gresham Hotel was said to be particularly shocking. J. P. Swindlehurst, a British soldier who had seen his share of the Great War’s horrors, was appalled by the walls and carpets bespattered with blood’. These men were killers who remembered the colour of a carpet on a stairs, who recalled which side of the street they walked on on their way, but they never mentioned any blood. Nothing, not even the practicalities of whether they needed to clean their own clothes.

Hansard reports. Gresham Hotel, Sackville Street. Two murders. Here a party of fifteen to twenty men entered the open door of the hotel, held up the boots and the head-porter with revolvers and forced the latter, Hugh Callaghan, to lead them to rooms occupied by Ex-Captain Patrick MacCormack, formerly a captain in the Army Veterinary Corps, and Lieutenant L. E. Wilde. The party, one of whom carried a huge hammer, knocked first at Room 14 occupied by Mr. Wilde. He opened the door and asked, "What do you want?" By way of answer three shots were fired into his chest simultaneously. The party then moved to Room 24, which they entered and found Mr. MacCormack sitting in bed reading the paper. Without any communication five shots were fired into his body and head as he sat there. The bed was saturated, and the body, especially the head, was horribly disfigured. Possibly the hammer was used as well as shots to finish off this gallant officer.

Postscript

hugh callaghan gresham hotel porter

List of Addresses Raided

I still have to read. Service record of MacCormack, P J , Royal Army Veterinary Corps Lieutenant , Catalogue reference WO 372/12

And also WO 35/159B. Proceedings of a court of inquiry in lieu of inquest on Captain P. McCormick (sic) and Mr L. A. Wilde, London Evidence of the medical examiner (this file was closed till 2003) On my list of things to look up there next time I visit!